Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Danny Gospel

“We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we without honour.” 1 Corinthians 4:10
In few novels does a character come so close to an incarnation of the words “fool for Christ” as does Daniel David McGillicuddy, the hero of David Athey’s debut novel Danny Gospel. Danny has lost everything, his family, his home, his bride, his sanity, and his respectability. He has been stripped of everything except his faith, which feeds both his innate kindliness and his joy, a joy which the world cannot give or take away. He is a bit like the "Holy Fools" of the Russian Orthodox tradition, a living contradiction to the world, and the often unwitting vehicle for salvific graces.

Constantly seeking the elusive state he calls “normal and happy,” it becomes quickly obvious to the reader that while Danny may have moments of happiness in his life he will never be “normal.” The Gospel-singing Iowa farm family in which he was raised, although idealized by memory and bitter loss, was anything but normal. One tragic accident causes "the Gospel family" to unravel, leading to death and dispersal. Danny is left alone, except for a few faithful friends; his guilt over the original fatal mishap contributes to his trauma.

For Danny is truly emotionally troubled; the story is told from his point of view and it is not always clear when he is hallucinating and when he is lucid. It is difficult not to become mesmerized by the peculiar twists of Danny’s thought processes. His tendency to pursue every dream and impulse leads him upon an odyssey across America. His adventures at last bring him full circle, to the moment when being “normal and happy” are once again within his grasp.

However, Danny is uniquely marked by the cross. He longs for the days when his family proclaimed the Gospel through their music. Danny is called to share the Gospel on a deeper level, the level of abasement, of humiliation, of being a stranger and pilgrim on the earth. Lyrically written, Danny Gospel vivifies the scents and sounds of Iowa farms and towns, with characters who are distinctly Midwestern and prosaically salt-of-the-earth. Danny shines among them like a prophet of old, pointing the way to another and better world, saving his life by losing it. Share


Anonymous said...

I've got to get this book!
Sounds wonderful.

elena maria vidal said...

It is. You'll love it!

Ann Murray said...

Me, too!

Terry Nelson said...

The author contacted me - your post reminds me I need to read the book.

elena maria vidal said...

It's a good read. You'll like it, Veritas. So will you, Terry.

Anonymous said...

sounds GREAT!! Seems more like his life mirrors Job than the Gospels, but what an interesting story...would be a great movie, too, I think.